I’ve got something a little different for you this week. I received an email just recently from a gentleman who, from the content of his email, appeared to be quite distraught.

As I read on, it became clear that he had good reason. He had had the misfortune to experience a theft and had contacted me for help. But this wasn’t a normal sort of theft – oh no, this was ‘online theft’ and that’s something that I get emails about quite often. Not because I have become a part-time detective – not enough spare time for that – but because these online crimes are being committed more regularly than you might think.

So, let me set the (crime) scene.

You’ve researched and sourced a great product and you’ve worked out that you can make an excellent profit on every item you sell. You list it and sales come thick and fast just as you planned – perfect. Now, although your continued success will be down to several things – some great descriptions, excellent customer service, fast dispatch and so on, you’re pretty sure that the excellent photos that you have taken of your items are undoubtedly helping matters.

Anyway, back to the scene – some time goes by, things are going well for you, but during some later research you happen to spot another seller using a suspiciously similar image to sell the same product as you. Curious, you open the listing to have a closer look only to discover that the photos advertising the product are the very ones that you took yourself – with your own camera, in your own home/office!

This has happened to me too – and so I know just how annoying this is. In fact once, another seller stole my entire listing description right down to the words I had written, the images and even my own terms and conditions! Imagine the fury I felt!

Believe me, if this happens to you you’ll experience a whole range of emotions in seconds ranging from shock to indignation, rage to frustration and annoyance to anger…

But look, the thing to remember is this: another seller using your photos without your permission is technically breaking copyright rules and you can contact eBay and report the seller which may result in their listing being removed, or eBay requesting that they change their images.

However, this is a bit of a grey area because you can’t always prove that the images were originally yours. What’s to stop the other seller saying that you stole his pictures? This might sound like a small thing, but someone else using your well-crafted photos that you’ve taken time perfecting could end up losing you customers, and that’s the last thing you want after the effort you’ve put in.

Don’t worry though, because there is a way you can stop this online image theft and it’s very simple!

You can add a watermark to your images. This faint text across your images won’t stop a potential buyer from being able to see what it is you have for sale so there’s no problem there, but it will stop another seller being able to save the image and use it as their own as it will be branded with either your company name, eBay username or another mark that highlights the picture as yours. Of course they can still use it if they wish but your name will appear in their listing which is advantageous to you… but certainly not to them!

So, there are several different ways to watermark your images:

  1. Let eBay automatically add watermarks to your image of either your eBay ID or a camera symbol. It’s best to go for the username option here as the camera symbol doesn’t really make the image relate to you.
  2. Use an free online watermarking tool such as watermarktool.com
  3. Manually add watermarks to your images using an image editing program such as Adobe Photoshop.

The first option is perfect for your eBay listings as it’s a tool that eBay can provide as you prepare your listing. The second option is great if you want to watermark images for use on other venues or your own website and the third option requires both owning appropriate software that can help with the task, and also the skill to know how to add a semi-transparent watermark without obscuring the image itself – so is a bit more advanced.

With this in mind let’s look at the straight-forward step by step process of adding a watermark to your images through the eBay website.

Step 1 – Start creating your listing

Watermarking your images can be completed within the listing creation window, so click on ‘sell an item’ to start listing an item.

Follow the usual steps by adding in your keywords or the title of your item, and selecting the appropriate category for your goods. If you haven’t already chosen the Advanced option for your listing you’ll need to change to the form with more options by selecting the appropriate link at the top right hand side of the basic form.

Step 2 – Complete your information

You should now take the time to create an accurate and informative listing with a great title, interesting description and appropriate additional information relating to the item in question. Decide on your starting price and other payment information and once you’re happy with the listing it’s time to move on to the images.

Step 3 – Set up your watermark

As you complete your listing description you will notice an area entitled ‘Bring your item to life with pictures’. Beside this heading is a link called ‘Add or remove options’ which you should now click on to set up watermarks on your images.

A popup menu will appear providing you with some options, a couple of which are related to the watermarking of your images. I suggest opting for ‘Enable watermarking with my eBay user ID’ as this will deter any other sellers from being able to take your image and use it as their own.

Once you have selected your preferred option simply click the Save button. Your images for this listing will now automatically be watermarked with your eBay user ID. Simple isn’t it!

Step 4 – Upload your images

So, now that you’ve adjusted your options to allow your images to be watermarked you are free to add your pictures as normal. All of the images you add will be watermarked now, so you can use as many as desired within your listing without worrying about any other sellers being able to take advantage of your photos.

Taking Photos worth Stealing!

Are your photos actually worth stealing? It’s easy to feel flattered that someone else has stolen and used your images as they obviously think they are good enough to steal! On the other hand it’s more likely to be simply laziness on the other sellers part and yours were the images found easily to hand.

Images get stolen because they are absolutely vital when it comes to your success with selling on eBay. They convey at a glance, exactly what it is that you’re selling. Your pictures will reassure a buyer that they’re bidding on the real deal, and that there aren’t any obvious flaws or problems that would stop them from purchasing from you. A listing without any images at all will almost always sell for less than the product is really worth (if it sells at all).

Most mobile phones today come complete with digital cameras of a high enough quality to take some snaps of your items, so there’s no excuse not to upload an image or two with every listing. And remember the following tips as you take your photos to really make the most of your products:

  • Keep the focus on the item you’re selling. Make sure there’s nothing in the picture that’s not actually for sale; a potential buyer should just see what they’re going to be buying so make sure it’s the focus of the image. The item should also take up the majority of the space available in the picture.
  • Make sure the background isn’t distracting. The only thing in your image that a buyer should be drawn to is the product itself (unless you’re the girl who sold the yellow dress on eBay recently and managed to ‘accidentally’ get a half-naked picture of herself into the listing!) so if possible take your image with a plain background, potentially a white or cream bed sheet or a plain table.
  • Light up the photograph as much as possible. A dark and dreary looking photo will do nothing to inspire a buyer to make a purchase from you, so try to make sure your photographs are well illuminated. You may wish to wait for daylight to take photos with a nearby window, or otherwise grab a bedside lamp to focus on the item.

With digital cameras so easily accessible today there’s really no excuse not to prioritise photos in your eBay listings. Just remember to add your watermarks each time to make sure that no other sellers can benefit from your hard work!